Tag: Women’s Leadership

Co-mentoring Through the Decades

Each Executive and Upward class is split into co-mentoring groups, which consist of a diverse selection of women leaders in Birmingham. If you are interested in finding a mentor, Momentum has a free matching program.

Some of our groups have been connected for over a decade.  Tricia Kirk, Katherine Bland, Connie Pruett, Rusha Smith, all from class 6, and Katherine’s wife Peggy Vandergrift. According to Katherine, “We are family. We celebrate life’s blessings and we lift each other up through difficult times. My Momentum family has supported me and inspired me, especially when I was diagnosed with Ovarian cancer.”

Alumnae with similar profiles will not be put together. For example, there will never be a group with 5 lawyers or accountants. What’s surprising about the group?

“You would never put this group together. We come from different walks of life, career paths, rural and urban upbringing, ideologies, and so much more. But, we respect and embrace our differences,” Katherine Bland.

Others are newer but just as engaged. Mo Shorts, Alaina Ploski, Carly Miller, Danielle Hines, Efstathia Andrikopoulou, and Felicia Pike are in a group from the Upward class. Their advice?

“Be intentional. It is worth it.”

“All members need to be equally invested for this to work.”

“These women are unbiased third parties and they can give you great perspective on the challenges you face. Even if you are nervous, you will feel better putting it out there for consideration.”

Both of these groups remained consistent throughout the pandemic. How was this possible? The Upward group stayed connected through a daily group text. They also had virtual meet ups until it was safe to meet in person. One participant shared, “I am geographically far from my family and friends, so having this group has been a true gift – knowing I have friends close by and people to reach out to if I need. Simply by existing, the women who make up my group have supported me through what has been a very strange time.”

Having a strong group of supportive women means you can call someone up for a drink or a walk at any time. “What seemed so big, with them, is now so small. They have a way of putting things in perspective.” Momentum’s mentoring program pairs mentees and mentors who share a specific goal or skill they want to work on together. Although you are only required to have a six month relationship, many pairs stayed connected beyond that time period.

The Executive group had even more ideas for connecting through COVID. “We continued our gatherings through Zoom. We even bought the same appetizer tray from the grocery store so we were still ‘sharing’ our appetizers. When it was safe, we had a gathering outdoors and recently moved to outdoor dining in restaurants,” Katherine Bland.

Despite a bizarre year, we are thrilled to hear of moments of support and encouragement. Women need true connection now more than ever. Reach out to Mindy Santo, Mentor Coordinator, for more information. Here’s to a better 2021!

May Showers Bring Summer Flowers

Observing this past month of May where we celebrated Mental Health Awareness, it is vital to reflect on the general state of wellness impacted by the pandemic and quarantine. We do not want to labor into another disparaging article about the statistical impacts that sudden loss, sustained periods of doubt and uncertainty, and isolation (among other effects) have had on our health outlook. Instead, we want to encourage you to remember the incredible obstacles we have overcome through the course of quarantine 2020, as we return to a semblance of what our life was before.

While some are bold to make the leap, others are understandably hesitant to re-enter an inevitably changed world. They are weary of returning to a state of blissful ignorance and remain cautious of their people interactions despite substantial progress in projected health outcomes. They still carry trauma from the suddenness of the quarantine order, shutting down our economy and livelihood many depended on. And, this fear of dire consequence drives a delayed expectation of gratification that has permanently changed how we approach mindfulness, connecting with others, and how we seek enjoyment outside of our professions.

In spite of this, we are seeing major improvements in public mental health acceptance. Undeniably, the time spent in isolation or confinement awakened space to identify and face some areas of trouble we faced prior to 2020. We had to put in the tough effort to derive comfort from ourselves and continue to build self-originated hope. Whether we carried in mental health issues from our past or were confronted by new ones, it is more visible to us how our stress, low self-worth, or low trust impede our day-to-day tasks.

Going forward, we must continue to prioritize mental health wellness and take action, not retrospectively, but because we deserve positivity and assurance about our progress. We deserve to pursue happiness in tandem with our responsibilities. We deserve to disrupt business to introduce intervals of peace, creativity, and freedom. These are all necessary pursuits.

 

 

By Nikita Udayakumar

3 Ways to Celebrate Women’s History Month

March is Women’s History Month. What began as a local celebration in Santa Rosa, California has grown into a nationwide acknowledgment of women’s accomplishments throughout history. This month-long celebration seeks to highlight women’s groundbreaking contributions as well as uplift women to help get them through issues still lingering today.

We’re already planning how we’re going to celebrate here at Momentum. Looking to find ways to celebrate Women’s History Month too? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

  1. Read up on the history of women’s rights – What is Women’s History Month? Why is March Women’s History Month? This resource gives you all the answers you need
  2. Write a letter to a woman that inspires and motivates you to be the best woman you can be. A simple thank you to a family member, coworker, or friend to remind them of how awesome they are this month and every other month. Don’t forget to write one to yourself! Because you’re pretty awesome too!
  3. Whether you’re looking to educate yourself more on the women’s movement, or simply take stock in the amazing accomplishments made by women, be sure to read and share works by female authors this month. Momentum’s current pick is the historical fiction novel, The Vanishing Half, by American author Brit Bennett. You can pick up a copy of this book at a female-owned bookstore, Thank You Books, in Crestwood!

 

What Women Business Leaders Should Know About Taxes, Loans, & Grants

Katie Roth is a writer, artist, and entrepreneur. Originally from Alabama, she now resides in the UK with her husband and two dogs, and works with clients and other business owners in Europe and the USA.

Women in business still face too many hurdles, and unfortunately 2020 has only exacerbated them. Common issues like securing adequate funding or accessing much-needed resources have been complicated by the coronavirus. COVID-19 has brought about unprecedented challenges not just for women, but for the global business community. As we all learn how to manage our new reality in 2021 and look forward to a slow emergence from the grips of the virus, it is time for people to give real thought to how they might bring about new success in business once more.

It’s with that in mind that we’re looking at some important things Alabama’s women business leaders should know regarding taxes, loans, and grants.

Taxes

Regarding taxes for business leaders, there aren’t necessarily points to make that are specifically relevant to women. However, there are some simple reminders worth keeping in mind for anyone who is starting or attempting to grow a company.

The first reminder is that Alabama is considered to be a particularly favorable state when it comes to personal tax — which can free up some funds to manage business expenses. Just this year, an article ranking state income tax rates listed Alabama in a tie for 10th place (meaning 10th lowest), with a rate of 2-5%. Given that some states have personal income tax rates of 10% or more, it’s a good idea for women to consider launching businesses in Alabama. The slight but meaningful financial cushion allows for more business investment opportunities.

Additionally, registering as an LLC can compound the benefits you get from the favorable tax situation. LLC structure in Alabama is such that a business with this sort of official standing is actually not taxed as its own entity. Instead, owners simply pay income tax on what they make from the business. This means that rather than having a hefty, separate tax on business earnings, you can simply enjoy that same 2-5% rate on business-related income. That said, LLCs are subject to something known as a “business privilege tax,” which relates to the company’s net worth. Still, it’s worth running the numbers on the idea, because particularly for a newer or smaller businesses, the net benefit of the LLC structure can be significant.

Loans

Where loans are concerned, Alabama is again an appealing state for new, small businesses. Recent years have seen lenders give out nearly $1 billion in loans to small businesses— spread out over more than 50,000 individual arrangements. These numbers, given the size of the state and the number of people working in small businesses, justify the notion that Alabama has actually been one of the better states to secure a business loan.

As for specific loan funding for women-led businesses, we’d recommend keeping an eye on a Birmingham support program known as “Upward,” which was designed specifically to help women leaders in business — particularly now as we all look to move forward from COVID. It’s just the sort of resource that has become invaluable to such leaders in communities where women in business are seizing more opportunity — offering leadership coaching, help with goal setting, network support, and more.

Grants

In the grant department, there is more business aid to be found with specific regard to the coronavirus crisis. In July, we saw the announcement of the $100 million “Revive Alabama” grant, which was designed to help fund struggling small businesses. The $100 million was pulled out of $1.9 billion that Alabama received in total from the federal CARES Act, and it was made available to businesses earning less than $5 million annually and employing no more than 19 people. The hope is that additional grant packages of this sort will be made available to small business leaders once again if and when the federal government signs off on another relief package.

There are also some more accessible grants available. Most notable among these is the Amber Grant. Launched by WomensNet, this is a $10,000 grant given out to at least one woman in business each and every month. It also involves an additional $25,000 bonus given to a single “winner” at the end of each year. It’s an excellent example of what a program meant to stimulate innovation among women entrepreneurs can look like.

Funding a business and managing its finances is difficult, but for women in Alabama looking to endure the coronavirus and thrive in business thereafter, being aware of everything discussed above can amount to a helpful head start on the financial front.

Giving Tuesday

The much anticipated holiday season is finally upon us! Going into Thanksgiving this week, we move into a time of reflection and giving thanks despite the unexpected year 2020 has brought us. While many people look forward to the spread of food on the table on Thursday, and the chaotic shopping Black Friday and Cyber Monday bring, here at Momentum we look forward to Giving Tuesday. If you aren’t familiar with Giving Tuesday, it’s a global generosity movement and a day of giving to the organizations that work towards transforming their communities.

One way you can support Momentum Leaders this #GivingTuesday is to make a contribution to support women in leadership. Momentum relies on community support in order to continue our premier leadership programs and offer events within the community. Without this support, we would not be able to operate as a resource for women in leadership in the Birmingham area.

Another way you can support Momentum is to volunteer. Momentum is always looking for volunteers to help with our various events and programs. If you are interested in serving the Birmingham community by partnering with Momentum, be sure to check out our volunteer interest page on our website for more information.

Please consider supporting Momentum during Giving Tuesday 2020. Your gift will help us to continue to advance women in leadership as they continue to make an impact in their own communities.

Madam Vice President

Kamala Harris walking alongside a young Ruby Bridges. Photo by artist Bria Goeller.

The glass ceiling was shattered last Saturday as Kamala Harris was announced as the first female vice president-elect in U.S. history. Not only is she the first woman, but also the first Black and South Asian American that will hold the position. All politics aside, it’s important to recognize the history being made right before our eyes. The representation and diversity Harris will bring to the White House alone is reason enough to celebrate this historic win no matter your beliefs, gender, background, or political alignment. She’s broken through the barricade that women have been stuck behind for centuries, along with those women that paved the way before her like Harriet Tubman, Ruby Bridges, Shirley Chisholm, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg to name a few. 

This election year happens to fall on the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which established American women’s right to vote when it was ratified on August, 18th 1920. While the ratification of the 19th Amendment was a huge step for women, it has proved to be only the beginning of a long-winded fight for equality that we are still fighting for today, 100 years later. During her acceptance speech, Kamala Harris stepped out onto the stage in an all white suit. Her suit was much more than a fashion statement — it was a deliberate choice, standing as a recognition to those women who came before her and those who will come after. White has long been recognized as a color of purity and hope and is associated with the suffrage movement dating back to 1913 when 8,000 women wore white to march in Washington D.C. the day before President Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration. They did this to protest and demand an amendment allowing women the right to vote. Since then, there have been numerous occasions where women holding political positions wore white as a nod to those suffragettes who came before them and essentially paved the way to where they are today. 

While Harris recognized the ones that came before her, she also brings a new hope to the future generations of leaders to come. By having diversity — not only with gender, but race — well-represented in leadership positions within our country, inspiration is created for younger generations to know that their voice can be heard; they are more than capable of achieving their goals, whether that be running for president of their 8th grade class, or running for President of the United States. During her speech she stated, “While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last – because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities.” Harris did not become the first female vice president-elect without continuing the legacy of the women before her, and now the little girls who dream of being a leader can use Harris as a stepping stone on their own ladder to success. 

Women should not still have to fight for equality in this country, especially 100 years after we were granted the right to vote. However, we will continue the fight until everyone recognizes the capability and power a woman holds.  As the Notorious RBG said herself, “Women belong in all places where decisions are being made,” and that is exactly where we will be from now on.

How to Manage Your Mental Health

Not only have businesses taken a hit from the challenges 2020 has brought us, but for many people their mental health has as well. The best thing you can do in order to stay successful in your career, especially in times like this, is to first take care of yourself and focus on the importance of your mental health because the most important asset to your career is you. Here are three tips on how to manage your mental health:

1. Promote Mental Stimulation

Just like your body, your brain needs exercise too! Now is the time to try new things in your spare time like learning a new language or playing an instrument. You can also increase your brainpower with puzzles, books, or playing card games with family. You should always strive to practice lifelong learning in your personal and professional life. The more you challenge your brain and keep it active throughout the day, the healthier it will be.

2. Listen to Yourself

The only person that knows you better than anyone is yourself. While it might be easy to focus on other people, or the tasks you have yet to complete, you need to first listen to yourself to best assess your needs which will help you stay productive. It’s okay to take breaks and step away for a moment when life gets too overwhelming. Remember to take a deep breath. One way you can decompress is by practicing meditation which you can learn more about here.

3. Stay Connected

Our world has never been more connected than it has been in 2020. With mandatory social distancing guidelines, people across the globe have had to place importance on staying connected virtually in order to work or maintain relationships with family members and friends. However, it’s also important to know when you need to unplug. Taking breaks from watching the news or scrolling through countless posts on social media can prevent you from having a mental burnout and allow you to have time to reflect or spend time with your loved ones. Above all else, remember that you are not alone and we will get through these times together.

Want access to more wellness tips? Join us for Wellness Wednesdays every Wednesday at 10 am where we have local experts discuss spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical health. You can register for Wellness Wednesdays here.

 

Mentoring Success Story

Lots of companies have mentoring programs, but it’s not always easy to find one that works. Momentum’s mentoring program has had great success for four main reasons.

  1. Momentum has a network of over 350 accomplished women graduates to choose from, so finding a good match is  less onerous than in a company setting where the pool of high-ranking women may be smaller.
  2. Most women that come through our program can cite several mentors in their own lives. They are most often men. Of course men make great mentors and those relationships are important. At the same time, having a woman mentor means someone who understands first-hand some of the unique challenges career women face, such as unconscious bias, wage gaps, family planning and extended family care.
  3. Our  network of potential mentors come from many different companies and represent a broad range of industries and roles. This diversity has real advantages over having a mentor from within the same company.
  4. All participants in the mentor program, mentors and mentees alike, receive training on how to set some goals and parameters. This training is very helpful in making sure both parties understand what they are trying to achieve and by when.

Currently we work with organizations like Girls Inc., area colleges, organizations for young professionals, and Momentum corporate partners to pair our graduates with young women seeking mentors. For example, last year we teamed up Momentum graduate and entrepreneur Jennifer Skjellum with a young Executive Property Manager for Davis Management, Molly Shuster.

Molly shared this with Momentum about the experience:

“Simply saying ‘thank you’ to Momentum for pairing me with Jennifer doesn’t feel like enough. Jennifer’s mentorship has developed into a friendship that I know will carry on for years to come; the guidance Jennifer provides both professionally and personally is the best gift I could ask for, and I encourage others to seek the same through this program. As a young woman, having an experienced professional you can look up to and call on with questions, knowing you will receive solid answers, is an advantage I encourage others to find. To be honest, I cannot recommend this program enough – it has been a wonderful experience.”

The benefits of mentoring are reserved for the mentee. There’s a lot in it for the mentor too, according to Jennifer:

“After graduating from Momentum I joined the Momentum Alumna Program (MAP) to continue my relationship with the organization and with the people I met through the program. I also joined so that I could take advantage of the opportunity to be placed as a mentor.  Mentoring, networking, and relationship-building are the benefits of MAP that are most important to me.  As a successful woman, I enjoy motivating and mentoring others. I also feel an obligation to help ensure the next generation of professional women have the opportunity to advance further than I have.

I was matched with Molly Shuster. Over the past nine months of getting to know her, I gained a new friend, a better sense of self and have become a better listener.  It has been fulfilling to leverage my experience and networks to benefit another person. “

About Molly: 

Molly Shuster is the Executive Property Manager for Davis Management, Inc. in Birmingham, AL. She graduated from the University of Alabama in 2016 and looks forward to continuing her experience with an emphasis on Birmingham’s growing real estate market.

About Jennifer:

Jennifer Skjellum is an entrepreneur, educator and ecosystem builder.  Her 25 year career includes experience building companies, building educational programs for undergraduates and professionals, and most recently leading a nonprofit organization with the mission of growing and strengthening the technology ecosystem in Birmingham, Alabama region.

Mentorship: a workplace necessity or a necessity for success?

For the community of business professionals, the idea of mentorship is a hot topic, especially when discussing women in the workplace. We are all aware of the “leaky chasm” where more women are graduating from university than ever before and yet the number of executive leaders is slim. Mikki Taylor, a well-known writer and speaker, said that “many women live like it’s a dress rehearsal. Ladies, the curtain is up and you’re on.” In view of mentoring, it is important for women to take their steps with purpose. It is time we become bold and seek out mentors and mentees. Mentoring future women leaders is a necessity for the workplace as well as personal success.

According to Forbes,  only fifty-four percent of women have access to senior leaders who act as mentors or informal sponsors. The lack of mentors for women is believed to be one of the major reasons we don’t see more women in leadership. Increasingly data show that when more women sit at the decision-making tables, better decisions are made. In order to continue fostering growth, women must begin asking for help and sharing their insight. Mentorship is a wonderful path to begin paving better roads for the future of equality in leadership.

There are countless benefits for both parties involved in a mentoring relationship. According to a recent Forbes article, “it is a broader network of relationships and circumstances that shape individual success.” With many decisions that are made, there are discussions that come before them. When making a change in career choice, almost everyone will phone a trusted friend to hear his or her input and discuss options and concerns. Mentoring is important because there is an educated decision to trust someone who has more experience, a different perspective, and wise recommendations. While the responsibility for life decisions ultimately resides within each of us, we are wise to seek counsel from someone with experience in the issues we face.

The value of mentoring is a two way street, with mentors standing to benefit from the relationship as well. According to a Forbes article, the benefits of  mentoring include new insights into the workforce, valuable connections, new perspective, and the personal satisfaction of sharing experiences. In addition to the personal and professional benefits of a mentor relationship, those who mentor are twenty percent more like to receive a raise.

The guidance, honesty, and input of a mentor can help a mentee become their achieve their personal best. Many mentees desire this relationship to gain knowledge and a specific skill set, but this article points out that they also often receive a broadened perspective, gain connections, learn more about business politics, and gain the confidence to stand on their own. For young professionals who may feel inadequate, take the advice of Sara Blakely, the Founder of Spanx: “Don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know because it can also be your greatest strength and ensure that you do things differently from everyone else.”

A three-tiered mentoring program is an essential part of Momentum’s mission to advance women in leadership. Each year we pair class participants with senior mentors. Upon graduation, participants receive training on successful mentoring and are paired with a teen, college student, or young professional looking for a mentor. Momentum has fostered over 800 mentoring relationships to date.

If you have experiences, opinions or advice on mentoring, we’d love to see your comments here.

Taking Time to Lead

Working women are so incredibly busy with demanding careers, sometimes working harder than their male colleagues to prove their merit. At the same time they are often caring for children, parents, siblings, or neighbors…sometimes all of the above, and all at the same time. It can be incredibly difficult to set aside the necessary time for self-reflection and to build relationships with an objective network of equally smart, driven, successful women.

img_5013That’s why each MOMENTUM year-long leadership class begins with an off-site retreat to set the tone. Last week we loaded up a big bus and headed to the Marriott Shoals in beautiful Florence, Alabama to start the work on us.

Phones off. Completely disconnected. Time to focus, breathe, and get to know the women that will become part of a powerful network.

 

img_5067We asked Gerriann Fagan, one of three facilitators during the retreat, to share her take on our time together. Gerriann is President of Warren Averett Workplace with 20 years experience in career development and coaching. She is also an alumnae of MOMENTUM. Having been on both sides of the participant/facilitator in the program, Gerriann has a unique perspective to share.

“When I participated in MOMENTUM’s Class 10, I began a journey with new friends and colleagues. In the few years since we graduated, my classmates and I have been through many challenging as well as joyful times: advances in careers, new career choices, life changes and big moves. We’ve been there for each other. MOMENTUM widened my perspective and gave me invaluable insight into the importance of having space in your life.

img_5033This year (2016) was the 2nd year I co-facilitated the MOMENTUM Retreat. It is fascinating how unique and different the groups are and how quickly they gel. This class was completely at ease listening, sharing and advising one another.

If someone came into the program with a goal of advancement, she found someone who had blazed a similar trail. If she was ready to make a life change, there was someone who had done that too. Challenges, hopes and dreams were swirled around easily and quickly in opening exercises.

Thinking about my experience with MOMENTUimg_5009M through the eyes of a participant – I didn’t know what I was getting into or what I’d get out of it. I was really surprised at how the experience enriched my life and career, and how much continue to get out of it to this day. Through the eyes of a facilitator, I am amazed at how Birmingham continues to nominate such impressive women to MOMENTUM, class after class.

I found Class 14 to be especially open, collaborative, and driven. Beautiful things happen when we take the time to lead. It’s going to be fantastic to see where these women will take us.”

Gerriann Fagan
President
Warren Averett Workplace